To know David Bellavia is to love him

Bellavia exudes patriotism as Medal of Honor recipient

Tim Wenger
June 26, 2019 - 6:07 am

As I made my way into the White House Tuesday I wondered how David Bellavia was feeling.  He was about to stand on a stage in the East Room before the President, military hierarchy, family, army brethren and friends.   No pressure, right?

Then the announcement of their entrance and that familiar Hail to the Chief as President Trump and David entered the room from the hallway.   That look on David’s face as he marched into the room was telling.  Serious.   Respectful.  An air of nervous confidence was about him.   Oh that look. 

It was that moment when it struck me that this wasn’t just another big news event I was witnessing.   I know this guy.  A sense of pride as a friend, a coworker and an American overcame me. 

And as I was watching the words the President was reading off the teleprompter as he let the world in on David’s story, there was a sense of pride for Western New York too. David, of course, is a product of rural Western New York.   One of us. 

I had spent some time with David’s Army buddies the previous 24 hours at the Pentagon and the hotel.  Not being a military person myself, I quickly got a glimpse into the mindset of the men and women who serve our country, particularly in time of war and conflict.   It is a fraternity.  A family. And despite the years that have ticked away since serving together in Iraq, they pick right up where they left off.

The guys David served with were in the room and were beaming with pride at the honor bestowed upon David.   And while David will wear the award, he is quick to point out that he wears it for them as a group.  And he wears it not only for that house battle that he earned the award for, but for the scores of other battles they fought. 

And there are the Gold Star families.   David never forgets them and the ultimate sacrifice they paid in the loss of their sons. As President Trump acknowledged those families in the room, David swallowed hard and winced as he looked toward them and shared their pain.  

Of all the Medal of Honor ceremonies that have been hosted in the East Room, this is the first during which those families, fellow members of David’s unit and his own family were called onto stage.   That’s the only way David would have it. To witness the flood of emotion as David embraced his Army family and Gold Star families was a powerful moment I won't soon forget.

After the ceremony, Bellavia said, "I served with some of the greatest men I've ever met in my entire life." He says the entire night of Fallujah is impossible to think about without remembering those lost in that firefight.

Regardless of who resides in The White House, it’s not often the President is upstaged by any guest.  But Tuesday it was David who commanded the attention of the press, the President and the world. 

As the formal ceremony ended and a private reception in the east wing of the White House began, David could barely move as everyone in attendance wanted to share a private moment. 

While the meaning of the medal was beginning to settle in,  I'm not sure David will ever be comfortable wearing it.  But he will always respect it and I’m certain he will use it for the greater good. 

David is about to embark on a national tour of media and public events.  But not before reporting to The Pentagon today where he’ll be in the “Hall of Heroes” and deliver his first address as a Medal of Honor recipient. 

What will his message be?  What will he do as he embarks on this mission with the medal?

I’m certain David doesn’t have all the answers to those questions just yet.   But I know we’re all eager to find out. 

I’ve said this in recent days and it’s worth repeating.   I’m proud to work with David.  I’m honored to call him a friend.  And I’m thankful for what he did. 

Salute and God Bless David.

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